Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) has announced that approximately 40 million credit card and debit card numbers were exposed between Black Friday and Dec. 15. The retail chain says it has resolved the leak and is currently working with financial institutions and law enforcement officials.

Target Corporation

Target notified officials and financial institutions as soon as it became aware of the unauthorized access of the payment information. It is also working with a forensics firm to investigate what happened.

Biggest concern in Target case is fake cards

An expert says there is one main concern shoppers of Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) stores have to worry about in the wake of this breach.

“A concern is that the thieves could attempt to make counterfeit cards, because the stolen data came from the accounts of customers who made purchases by swiping their cards at terminals,” says IT and privacy legal expert Daren Orzechowski, a partner at law firm White & Case. “Target or the credit card company may have to offer these customers something, such as credit monitoring, to protect them from suffering any monetary losses and to preserve goodwill.”

Target case is one of the most high profile

This case involving Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) may be one of the highest profile cases to date, although it is far from being the largest credit card data breach. TechCrunch notes that in 2009, a provider of payment systems suffered a breach which exposed 130 million credit cards in a cyber-attack. But no matter how many credit cards were exposed, the affected company looks bad in the eyes of consumers.

“Any time an organization finds itself a victim of a data breach, it puts its brand and reputation at risk because it can significantly damage consumer trust,” Orzechowski said.

Tips for worried Target shoppers

But despite concerns about the hackers creating fake credit cards with the information they stole, credit card experts at CardHub reassure consumers that financial institutions are already on top of the issue. They said these institutions are already working with Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) and may “proactively change account numbers in order to limit damage if necessary.” They said most consumers should just monitor their credit card and debit card accounts a bit more carefully so that they can call their financial institution quickly if they notice fraudulent charges on their account.

“While fraud only impacts a fraction of one percent of all electronic transactions, major security breaches such as that recently experienced by Target are sure to catch the attention of consumers, leading to concern about the safety of our hard-earned money,” said CardHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou. “Fortunately, most of the liability for fraudulent transactions falls to merchants and financial institutions, with federal law and card network policies protecting consumers from monetary loss.”

CardHub also recommends that debit card users sign for their purchases instead of using a PIN in order to maximize liability protections.

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